Friday, July 26, 2013

TAGteacher Tale: Stranger on the Train - A Tale of Compassion (Part 1)

This post is from Mara Windstar, who despite her own challenges, went to the effort of helping a complete stranger. You are awesome Mara!

Mara and Dixie the Service Dog
By Mara Windstar

Yesterday I was headed home after a great acupuncture treatment, and waiting for the transit train. It was the start of Friday night rush hour, so to say the train was crowded was an understatement. I entered the train in my power wheelchair followed by a young man who was walking. I've seen him numerous times, but never spoken with him as we have not sat close enough to one another to converse.

As I squeezed on with my monster chair he moved forward and asked a young woman if he could please sit down. The teen replied in a loud voice "you ain't no senior or disabled. And I ain't movin! I paid for this seat!"

I've observed in the past that the gentleman (early 20's in age possibly) has a difficult time standing and balancing on a moving train. He said nothing else, and was hanging onto a pole precariously. It was obvious that he really needed to sit down, but I knew he would not ask again nor ask any one else. This was a safety issue, and people were just staring at him.

I started to move my chair a little bit back and forth. A person on the opposite side of the aisle asked if I would like the wheelchair spot and I said yes and thanked him very much. I mentioned I was worried about safety and knew that spot was safer for everyone.

At the next stop, I asked the young man who had asked to sit down, if he could help me pull the seat down in front of me so more people could sit. He did so, and I invited him to sit down. He smiled, sat down and said thank you in a very quiet voice all without eye contact. I then transferred out of my powerchair and sat next to him. We started a conversation about a completely different topic from what had just occurred. The teen girl was fuming and cursing, "oh sure, you people all gotta stick together. That is so unfair! You don't even need that damn chair lady!"

"As a matter of fact I do, and it is not safe for me to transfer out of my chair on the train, any more than it is for my friend to stand while the train is moving. Since no one else offered a seat, I did. It's about safety. And I want you to know that if it wasn't safe for you, I would have found a seat for you also!"

I immediately went back to the conversation with the young man next to me, because I could sense we had some similarities in that he probably would just get off to avoid the discomfort of the situation.

We get off at the same stop, so I asked if he had a few more minutes to talk. Needless to say the conversation was far longer than a few minutes.

We talked about how hard it is to get our needs met when we have low self esteem, are ashamed of ourselves, or otherwise feel unworthy. We had more in common than he knew, that's for sure.

Before I knew it, we were mapping out what he'd like to be able to do in this type of situation, and how that might be possible.

We built an ongoing TAG plan for figuring how riding the train, and getting his needs met for safety could happen.

His goal is to secure a safe place to sit on public transportation, free from feelings of guilt.

To build confidence first, we are back chaining from the appreciation of having successfully secured a seat.

Our first session is completed.

The tag point was... "Thank you!"

Tomorrow is our next session and we are setting out to complete 2 more steps in the plan.

Stay tuned for part 2!

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